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Lena Waithe-Created South Side Chicago-set Drama Pilot in Development at Showtime (Common Exec Producing)

Lena Waithe-Created South Side Chicago-set Drama Pilot in Development at Showtime (Common Exec Producing)

The Showtime network Twitter account just posted the following tweet:

The annual Television Critics Association (TCA) summer event is continues in Los Angeles, as all the networks present their upcoming offerings, making announcements on future programming. And the above announcement was made during Showtime’s presentation. 

These announcements are typically followed by official press releases with full details on each project, so I’m sure I’ll be receiving one shortly, and when I do, I’ll update this post with specifics. But from what I gather from other tweets from those TV critics who are present for the TCA event, the project is a coming-of-age drama which revolves around a young African American man who lives on Chicago’s South Side. Waithe created and wrote the pilot, which will be an hour long, and she will  also exec produce with Common.

Also, Showtime has "high hopes" for the project, adding that they were "blown away" by Waithe’s script, calling it "emotional, funny, tragic and relevant, all at once."

All wonderful to read!

Maybe this will serve as a complement Spike Lee’s feature film, "Chi-Raq."

I’m looking forward to learning more… stay tuned.

As expected, Showtime sent out a press release on this, which is embedded below:

LOS ANGELES, CA – August 11, 2015 – SHOWTIME has given a pilot order to a one-hour drama created, executive produced and written by Lena Waithe (Dear White People, Bones) and executive produced by Grammy(R) and Academy Award(R) winner Common (Selma, Smokin’ Aces). Produced by Fox 21, the untitled project is a relevant, timely and distinctive coming-of-age story of a young African American male in which just growing up can be a matter of life and death. In addition to Waithe and Common, the pilot will be executive produced by Aaron Kaplan (Secrets and Lies, The Mysteries of Laura) and directed and executive produced by Clark Johnson (HOMELAND, The Wire) and will begin shooting in Chicago later this year. The announcement was made today by David Nevins, President, Showtime Networks Inc.

"The two creative forces behind the show, both hailing from Chicago’s South Side, give this pilot an unparelled authenticity," said Nevins. "Lena Waithe is an extremely fresh, talented young writer with a unique voice and a deeply thoughtful perspective into the world where she grew up. I immediately gravitated to her script, which is emotional, funny, tragic and relevant, all at once. And, we are so fortunate to have artist and visionary Common for his first producing project in scripted television."

Lena Waithe is a writer, producer and actor who was recently named "one of ten comics to watch" by Variety. She produced the award-winning, top-grossing indie film, Dear White People, which earned a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. She is the creator of the comedy pilot, Twenties. Waithe’s writing credits include the drama series Bones; the viral video "Shit Black Girls Say;" and webisodes about online dating, Hello Cupid. She also wrote and directed a short film Save Me that appeared at several indie film festivals.

Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Common is one of hip-hop’s most poetic and respected lyricists, having garnered multiple Grammy Awards throughout his career. His tenth studio album Nobody’s Smiling debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop Chart in 2014. In addition to his award-winning music career, Common’s work in film, television and his multiple written works (The MIRROR and ME, I Like You But I Love ME, and New York Times Best Seller, One Day It’ll All Make Sense) have proven his status as a bona fide entertainment multi-hyphenate. Common’s acting career also includes starring in significant roles in the films Smokin’ Aces, Street Kings, American Gangster, Wanted, Terminator Salvation, Date Night, Just Wright, Happy Feet Two, New Year’s Eve and Run All Night. Most recently, Common won the Golden Globe(R) Award and an Oscar Award for Best Original Song, for his song "Glory" from the film Selma, in which he co-starred as 1960s Civil Rights leader James Bevel.

Clark Johnson is an established director and actor. He has directed some of television’s most critically acclaimed series including directing the pilot and series finale of The Wire and The Shield, as well as several episodes of HOMELAND and SLEEPER CELL on SHOWTIME. As an actor, Johnson became part of the original cast of the television series Homicide: Life on the Street playing Detective Meldrick Lewis for all seven seasons and the reunion movie, as well as directing several episodes. Other directing credits include Third Watch, The West Wing and NYPD Blue among others.

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Comments

Anonymous

I don’t think it’s so much the same black stories are getting told. I think studios have no idea what black audiences want and if one thing works then they automatically put 10 other shows are movies in rotation that have something similar to the one that worked. If Frank’s Place became a hit, there would have been 10 Frank’s Places. Cosby Show was a hit, so they greenlit A different world and pretty much anything else Bill Cosby had a hand in. If the audience shows up for the next multi-layered, genre-twisting, dramatic take on black life, you’ll get more of it greenlit on major networks, cable and otherwise. That’s how it works.

CareyCarey

@ Walter H. Gavin, yep, I knew that. See, some time ago I was so impressed by your thoughtful comments that I did a google search. So needless to say, it has been my pleasure chopping it up with you. So, backatcha… thanks for the thoughtful discussion. Btw, I hope Mrs. Gavin didn’t mind appearing in my little thang. If she did, I’m pleading self defense… you made me do it. I needed help dealing with an old school who has been some where. Now, nite-nite, sleep tight… and I hope the bed bugs bite you for jackin’ with my sleep:-).

Walter H Gavin

@CareyCarey…Oh yeah…Sweet dreams!

Walter H Gavin

@CareyCarey….Wow! I don’t know where to begin but I’m sure there’s a film here somewhere. I’m just speaking from experience. And know how tough the road is. That being said I was involved with two(2) nationally syndicated shows that aired 52 weeks a year including reruns for four years back in the 80’s. Both were independently produced, financed, distributed, and reached 75% of the nation. Both could be considered "black" programs and neither pandered or took the audience for granted. They were music entertainment programs, more variety not narrative fiction, but countered what MTV was programming at the time and the ratings were good enough to get national sponsors like Burger King, Coke, Frito Lay, U.S. Army and more. That process, the business model is still viable and can work with other programming genres tried and true as well as experimental and hybrids. What’s required is creative vision, financial investment, diligence, busy savvy and luck. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion.

CareyCarey

@ Walter, don’t let your wife read this (if you don’t want to appear before Judge Judy). Walter Walter Walter, you done messed up. See, you were in my dreams last night. Now I am not the type of guy who analyzes dreams in search of some hidden truth about myself, so take this with a grain of salt… and again, don’t let your wife read this b/c, well, here’s how it all went down. Last night, as you know, prior to my bed time, you and I were engaged in a pretty lengthy debate. To support your argument you were dropping numbers left and right. I, with Miles’ assistance, was trying to disbute those numbers. Now, between posts, in that interim I was watching the black classic movie "Cabin In The Sky" starring Ethel Waters, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson and the gorgeous Lena Horne. Well, unfortunately (for me and you) all of the above, our debate and that movie, appeared in my dream. There you were with the gold-digging floozy Lena Horne hanging all over you. Y’all were laughing and kissing and drinkin’ gin together… having a good ol’ time. I was there. I was pissed-off and jealous b/c 10 minute earlier Lena had promised her love to me! Well, you know how dreams go, somehow those numbers you were dropping in our debate ended up appearing in this dream as numbers on the crap table. And guess what, one of the waggers was the opportunity to go to the no-tell, hide-away hotel with the beautiful Lena Horne. Now remember, in the movie I was married to Ethel Waters. You, as Domino Johnson was married to Lily, played by (don’t let your wife read this-) she was played by the scrawny squeaky Butterfly McQueen. She was in the house, and she was highly upset at your carousing ways. There was nothing she could do because when you’re juiced up, you were known to put your hands on her. Anyway, you rolled the dice, they stop on 7 but you swore it was 8. The house-man, Miles Ellison had already picked up the dice but just as in our debate, he agreed with me, saying it was 7, not 8. All hell broke loose, guns barked and women yelled, a body hit the floor, mine. Now Walter, you know dreams are a funny thang… our little debate must have got to me b/c there I was laying on the floor, shot by a fellow S&A reader, shot over a loose woman who didn’t belong to either of us. Then, as you stood over me, the exact words from our debate fell from your mouth. Gun in hand you said "@Carey…You’re not listening… the number was 8". I said to myself, WTF did he shoot me for, it’s just a damn harmless debate? Well, as dreams go, it made no sense at all. Anyway, as the scene continued, your wife had had enough. She started kicking you in your azz and calling you all kinds of dirty low-down mfers. Ethel Waters, my wife, started singing a prayer over me… "Oh God please don’t take my lil’ Carey from me, he’s all I got". Well, they say prayer works… and it does, I AM ALIVE :-). And when I clicked on Shadow and Act, the first thing I saw was YOUR comment, talking about some guy named William Goldman. Now Mr. Gavin, as I said, you done messed up. It’s one thing to have a disagreement over a movie issue, but when you mess with my beauty rest, I don’t take that lightly. And just think, in that dream you shot me AND you was kissin’ on my woman. WOW! But as I said, I am not the type of guy who analyzes dreams in search of some hidden truth about myself, but what is my dream telling me about YOU? *LOL* Listen, I am going to take a break, but I will be back to talk about that mess William Goldman said. He can and should talk about himself b/c predictions are one thang but facts don’t lie. Anyway, in the interim, while I take a litle time to process my dream and your latest comments, what ye say? But wait, before I go, I will say I am disappointed in you. You know this whole issue of how and what shows make it to the screen is much deeper, more challenging and not as simple as just "telling an interesting, arresting story, with great characters that has a point of view and substance, that can enlighten, inform, entertain and inspire". Yeah, that may be true for some folks, but if your skin is of a certain color (come on man, you know this) the playing field has a few boundaries and obstacles and land mines which makes the journey a tuff row to hoe.

Miles Ellison

It’s true that you don’t need huge audiences to make money. Mad Men and Breaking Bad had somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 million viewers. Both were interesting, multi-layered shows with interesting characters and stories. They were also shows that were stylistically unique. This gets back to the main issue here. The reason that you see the same black stories over and over again is because that is what people want to watch. Over the last several years, several black networks have been launched. How many of them are soliciting "interesting" entertainment? For the most part, they’re greenlighting inferior versions of what’s already on. It’s because these "arresting" stories won’t even attract the minimum audience you’re talking about. Walter Moseley’s tells arresting, interesting stories with great characters. He can’t get anything made. The reason is that there isn’t an audience for what he does, as great as it is.

Walter Harris Gavin

@CareyCarey…More to the point one doesn’t need all or most of Power’s, Empire’s audience to switch. I a world of so many networks, programs, distribution outlets an audience of 2-3 million based not on ethnicity, but around a way of being, seeing, and thinking is enough of a core to make for a profitable enterprise. All it takes is the financial wherewithal to make it happen.

Walter Harris Gavin

@CareyCarey…to paraphrase William Goldman, nobody really knows anything in Hollywood. Meaning it’s always a crapshoot when something makes it to the big or small screen. Nobody can predict what the audience will gravitate to or away from. You just do the best you can with what you’ve got. But if you know how to tell an interesting, arresting story, with great characters that has a point of view and substance, that can enlighten, inform, entertain and inspire, in my view there will always be an audience for that. Enough of an audience in fact that makes the effort worthwhile and provides enough of a ROI to keep going. Take a look at LASSITER on Facebook to see what I mean.

CareyCarey

Okay Walter, I paused my viewing of TCM’s highlighting of movies with the black actor Rex Ingram (It’s Rex Ingram day). Most remember him as Lucifer (the devil) in Cabin In The Sky. Others may remember him as "Jim" in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Fin. You must have said something to peak my interest b/c I paused the classic "The Green Pasture" :-). Now, here it is–> "Image-starved folks will watch what’s available given their limited list of options…[also] they partake of what is convenient for them, what’s available to them". Hmmmm, then you said a show only needs 2-3 mil to make money. To enhance/support your opinion your gave a history of "Power’s" audience numbers. Well, you do have a compelling argument. But now I’m wondering, could you be more specific about the shows you desire. And, in your opinion, if given a choice, would those who presently watch Empire, Power, Tyler’s programming, etc, would they switch? I believe the programming you look forward to seeing would not draw Power’s numbers. But you tell me why you believe differently. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I don’t do "Power" nor The Have Nots. I can’t stand them. My lady loves The Have Nots. I am basing my opinion on the box office of movies that may fall within your taste/desire/catagory. They’ve been made… but the turnstiles moved real slow.

Walter H Gavin

To further my point…
"According to Nielsen, the initial 9 p.m. telecast of “Power” averaged 1.082 million viewers — up from 754,000 one week earlier — and two quickie replays brought the show’s total for the night to 1.769 million. Counting all airings over the weekend, its nearly 2.5 million viewers is the largest total audience for a Starz finale since the conclusion of “Spartacus: War of the Damned” in April 2013." In a TV universe where there are 126 million adults 18-49 even 11 million viewers is small. But as one can see by the above quote Power is in it’s second season with audience numbers in the 2 million range.

.

*LOL*… "I am" listening but we all don’t look alike *snicker*. Are you looking for Miles?

Walter H Gavin

@Carey…You’re not listening. You don’t need a show to have 11 million viewers to make money. 2-3 million will do just fine certainly "off network." In commercial TV the "programming" is just the vehicle to get the viewer to the commercials. If I have a show that can consistently deliver 2-3 million viewers advertisers will pay for that.

Miles Ellison

10-15 million people didn’t watch any of those shows. That number of people did watch Empire and Scandal. That’s why those shows are being cloned. Everybody talks about how legendary The Wire is now, but it was almost cancelled after season 3 because no one was watching it. Treme wasn’t watched by anybody either. Those were both shows that were off the beaten track, yet they couldn’t attract a fraction of the audience that Tyler Perry gets for his shows on OWN. Shows like the ones you speak of have been made. There isn’t an audience for them.

Ghost

We don’t know where that audience is because the shows Walter speak of are not being made. Or if they are being made and have some success-there is not another show like to follow. What black drama followed Soul Food? Extreme? The Wire? Girlfriends? Everybody Hates Chris? Static Shock? Meanwhile we get one show like Scandal and we see 15 copy cats. We get shows with Empire inspired Cookies.

CareyCarey

Walter, again, I have to defer to Miles B/C when and if you play the numbers game, your argument becomes a mute point… and actually supports miles’ position. Also, I’ll say it again, blah-blah-blah… we need more blah-blah-blah… the audience is there, blah-blah-blah, rhetoric-rhetoric **loud standing applause** … (after the rousing speeches on black pride subsides, there remains a few issues which trumps all the talk) "if it does not make money, it does not make sense to those holding the purse strings, soooooooooo… "Where is this audience you speak of, Walter, and what are THEIR numbers?

Walter Harris Gavin

@Miles… Empire is a "hit" with 11 million viewers, 6 million of them "black." You’ve got shows on TV that are making money with audiences averaging 2/3 million viewers or less. Just because a show is "black" as the data above points to doesn’t say anything about who may or does watch. Network TV, whether cable or broadcast presents limited options. Image-starved folks will watch what’s available given their limited list of options. Black folks don’t necessarily have unhealthy diets because they go out of their way to eat unhealthily. They partake of what is convenient for them, what’s available to them.

Miles Ellison

How do these numbers translate into interesting, multi-layered black entertainment? As CareyCarey pointed out, a significant portion of this population is watching Power, Empire, Scandal, Tyler Perry’s cavalcade of OWN soap, slavery/servant porn, and wig-snatching, drink-throwing reality porn. This is what this audience WANTS to watch. Where is the overwhelming support for nuanced, layered, diverse entertainment?

Walter Harris Gavin

@Miles@CareyCarey
The U.S. Black population is 43 million strong. Larger than 163 of the 195 countries in the world including Argentina, Poland, Canada and Australia.

African-Americans are a driving force for popular culture. 73% of Whites and 67% of Hispanics believe Blacks influence mainstream American culture.

So goes the American Entertainment Market so goes the World.

CareyCarey

@ Walter, nice–> "But we need both an inside and an outside game". Now, before I can continue this discussion, I will first have to defer to Mile’s question.

Miles Ellison

Where is this audience you speak of?

Walter Harris Gavin

CareyCarey, there’s no way of knowing what kinds of pitches the Networks are getting. All we can point to is what they "greenlight." And what they commission falls into a very narrow range particularly for "black" product. But we need both an inside and an outside game. So how many folks who are let in the door, bring others with them? Or take some of their "largess" and make opportunities for folks outside "the system?" The audience is there, they’ve just been conditioned to not expect very much when it comes to "black" programming. So no one breaks out of their confining little box. As professor Clinton opined, "free your mind, your ass will follow."

CareyCarey

Interesting convo between Walter and April. I believe Walter played the trump card with the remark "He who pays the piper gets to call the tune." True, true, sho-nuff true. Yep, as my parents would say, "as long as you’re in our house, you’ll do as we say". That said, it’s safe to say the networks are receiving story pitches reminiscent of what Walter desires, however, trite but true, this is show-BUSINESS, not a charity nor the leaders of Black Consciousness . Consequently, as of lately, all the fanfare and all eyes are being directed toward shows such as Empire, Power and The Haves and The Have Nots, none of which would be considered the sophisticated, multi-layered story in the vein of House of Cards. So Walter, with all due respect, as a means to embellish my point, I submit the following. There’s a saying "people in Hell want ice water", however the devil (in this case, profit driven networks) reply "if it does not make money, it does-not-make-sense. There will be no ice water nor sophisticated, multi-layered stories about black folks, for you today, Mr. Gavin" :-) Signed ~ Network programmers, aka, The Devil. Lastly, Walter I think you’re a man of "faith" so I will assume you’ll appreciate the following: John 10:10 says "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."

Walter H Gavin

@April "Your comment in my opinion implies that writers play or that this writer play to what the networks want to see and will greenlight." Exactly. He who pays the piper gets to call the tune. The networks can commission whatever they think the audience will buy. It’s up the the writer/creator to push the envelop, broaden the horizon.

April Guscott

@Walter Harris Gavin, it seems like your question would be better directed to Waithe because she is the writer/creator. Your comment in my opinion implies that writers play or that this writer play to what the networks want to see and will greenlight. It also sounds as if you’re saying that the networks want to see these kinds of stories. I’m interested in Waithe and enjoyed reading her Twenties pilot. I hope she continues to write from the black gay female perspective.

beemooree

i see Kaplan is working with more and more blacks

Walter Harris Gavin

Can’t these "white" networks think beyond these urban (ghetto) dramas when it comes to projects about "black" folks? Where is the sophisticated, multi-layered story in the vein of House of Cards with a "black" protagonist? Answer: LASSITER.

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